A letter from my great great great grandmother

The other day I was starting to work through a large batch of new material that Benjamin Phelps had very kindly shared with me. One of the first things I looked at was a letter from 1885 in old German script. I gave an inner sigh because transcribing the old script is always very time consuming for me. But when I noticed who the letter was from I started to be more interested. The letter is signed S. Wyneken, i.e. Sophie Wyneken, FCD Wyneken’s widow.

Hm, the letter is dated January 1885. Hm, she was writing from Los Angeles!! Hm, she was writing her daughter-in-law, Conradine, her son Henry’s wife!!! So, what was she doing in Los Angeles? Wow, she was visiting the family of Henry’s twin brother, Martin, who had just died the previous October!!!!

As Martin is my great great grandfather I began to realise that I might really be interested in the contents of this letter.

When Martin died on October 19, 1884 he left behind his wife, Clara (34), and four children: Concordia (11), Clara (9), Martin (6) and Arthur (3). (I just noticed that Concordia’s birthday was October 18, so her father died the day after she turned 11. What a dreadful way to “celebrate” a birthday!)

Sophie describes how she spent Christmas with her newly widowed daughter-in-law and her four grandchildren. She described how they had a tree and shared presents. Her two granddaughters had made her a table cloth with embroidery on each of the corners. The girls also made some sort of handicraft presents for their brothers.

She writes, however, that her heart was heavy every time she realized that her son, Martin, was not there with them. She says that her grandchildren had asked their mother not to cry when they celebrated Christmas.

Transcribing the letter was somewhat tedious. When I finally figured out the last word in one of the sentences, I gasped inside. Sophie wrote that her six year old grandson, Martin (my grandfather’s father), was telling everyone that he was going to earn money when he grows up in order to buy a gravestone for his father. Sophie wrote further that he was already saving his pennies for that purpose. I can just picture a little boy saying this.

Later in the letter she invites Conradine to accompany her husband, Henry, when he comes out to visit in the summer. She even suggests that they buy property there so they can move to California when Henry retires from teaching.

She also refers to “Papa Crämer”, an old man who was now alone, too. August Crämer was the father-in-law of Martin and Henry’s sister, Sophie. A quick look in my database showed that August’s wife had also just recently died, in November. That’s a lot of deaths in the family.

I’m very grateful to Benjamin for passing on this letter to me. It provides an unexpected little peek into the daily life of my ancestors during a dark period of their life. It helps bring the sorrow of their situation back to life.

Here’s a rough transcription of the original German text:

Los Angeles d 2ten Januar [1885]en

Meine innig geliebte Tochter,

Also jetzt kömt dein Geburtstag.

Nun Gott Lob und Dank, das Er dich bisher deinen Mann und Kinder erhalten hat: Er sei auch ferner in diesem Jahr dein Schutz und Schirm. Er gebe dir ein getrostes Herz und fröhlichen Mut, zu kämpfen durch dies elende leben, bis es Gott gefällt uns Heim zu holen. In das liebe Vaterhaus, wo aller Jammer ein Ende hat, und wir alle unsere lieben wieder finden, das gebe Gott, das dir(?) keines fehlet.

Wie habt ihr das liebe Weihnachtsfest gefeiert? Hat das Christkindchen auch einen


schönen Baum gebracht? Wir hatten einen kleineren Baum für die Kinder zurecht gemacht. Herman und Kand. Scheuder(?) konnte leider erst spät abkommen(?) wie der Baum schon brante. Auch sind wir alle reichlich bedacht besonders ich. Die Mädchen haben sich sehr angestrengt. Ich wollte ihr köntet die Arbeit mal sehen die sie mir gemacht haben, eine schöne Tischdekke an jeder Ecke eine schöne Stikerei zu schön um zu gebrauchen. Von H und ?? silbere Teelöffel von Clara einen schöne Nähkrole(?) und Handstück, von Hr. Kern ein Eimer Butter von Fort Wayne. Auch für die Jungens haben die Mädchen eine schöne Handarbeit gemacht u Conni und Clara für ihre Mutter, mit Hülfe xxx xxx so wären wir auch vergnügt gewesen


aber der Gedanke das nun auch Martin fehlte, machte doch das Herz schwer.

Die Kinder hatten ihre Mama schon lange vorher gebeten, sie solle aber nicht weinen und sie immer an. Martin sagt immer wenn er groß ist will er Geld verdienen und Papa einen Stein kaufen, er spart auch jeden Cent. Clara spricht davon Conni mit ihren Vater zu schicken, die Eltern möchten gerne eins von den Mädchen.

Wir freuen uns schon darauf wenn dein Henry u. P. Leitz kömt [sic] nächsten Sommer. Könntest du es gar nicht möglich machen das du mit kämest? Du könntest dir hier dan Land kaufen und anlegen lassen und wenn dein Henry dan nicht mehr unterrichten kann, so komt ihr auch hier, ich du möchtest das xxx

[… something missing? – Maybe something like, “ich denke du möchtest das überlegen”]


Was macht den der alte Papa Crämer? Er dauert(?) mich sehr der alte Mann so allein, ich denke mir es muß für einen Mann noch viel einsamer sein als für eine Frau. Nur das er sich nicht so für sein äußerliches Auskommen zu sorgen braucht. Er wird mir doch oft sehr schwer so hart zu arbeiten in meinen alten Tagen

[Die?] 100 [Dollar?] von Cleveland kamen mir sehr gelegen, da als die xxx bezahlt werden musste.

Nun meine liebe Connie ich will nicht klagen, laß dir den xxx gut schmecken. Gott sei mit dir und deinem Mann und Kinder. Grüß alle zu xxx liebe deine Mutter

S. Wyneken

[P.S. – at the top of the third page] Die Bücher für Clara und mich sind nicht angekommen.


The last member of the Russian Wyneken family

I was searching the Internet for various Wyneken information when I ran across a page about Baroness Marka Wyneken. The name was very familiar but at first I couldn’t place it. Then I had a suspicion, and the suspicion was confirmed when I looked the name up in my database. Marka was the daughter of Baron Nikolaus Wyneken, who appears in my online database at the bottom of the page for his father Alexander, full name Johann Peter Alexander von Wyneken.

I had first heard of Marka in around 2004. I tried to locate her but was only able to find and correspond with her divorced husband, Prof. Raniero Gnoli, in 2005. He was no longer in touch with her but believed that she was living in Innsbruck, Austria. As it turns out, he was right about that but I never followed the lead any farther after my correspondence with him.

Now it’s too late because what I found on the Internet was her obituary. She died on July 27, 2014 in Innsbruck. According to the obituary she had been living in Innsbruck since 1991 as a secular canoness, German “Stiftsdame”.

My database contains numerous female Wynekens who were secular canonesses. That seems to have been a good option for unmarried aristocratic women who did not possess much wealth.

So how did Marka wind up in Austria?

Marka’s grandfather, Alexander, and his father, George, belonged to the Russian branch of the family that was founded when George moved there from Germany, possibly in 1860. Alexander on the other hand had a career as an officer in the Russian military. In the course of the Russian Revolution Alexander is said to have committed suicide to escape being captured by the Bolsheviks. His wife fled with the three children, including Marka’s father, Nikolaus, to Austria since the Russian Wynekens were also Austrian nobility. I’ve heard reports of Wynekens residing in Vienna at one point in time.

Nikolaus married Princess Isabella Josephine Maria Schönburg from the Schönburg-Hartenstein family. Isabella is listed on this web page (you have to search for her name) as marrying Baron Nikolaus von Wyneken in 1931 and divorcing him in 1933.

Prof. Gnoli, on the other hand, informed me that Marka’s father died a few months after the wedding. I unfortunately have no further information concerning the date of Nikolaus’ death so I don’t know which version is true.

Isabella von Schönburg remarried in 1937, a man named Georges Zafiorpulo, who according to the Internet was a sculptor.

I have no idea whether Marka grew up with her mother or her father. It’s possible that if I had been able to get in touch with her she would not even have been able to tell me anything about the Russian Wynekens if she had grown up with her mother. However I would have been overjoyed if I had indeed been able to get in touch with her before she died. It would have been a special experience to communicate with the last member of the Russian branch of the Wyneken. But it was not to be.

As a side note, I would like to mention that Georg Wyneken, the brother of Marka’s grandfather Alexander, was a bank director in Brussels. I have a report from Hans-Rolf Wyneken (now deceased) that he met Georg during World War II in Brussels when Hans-Rolf was stationed on the west front as a medic. Georg says that he found Georg living an impoverished life in a single room. There was a sign, though, that said “Baron von Wyneken”.

It seems that fate did not necessarily treat the last members of the Russian Wyneken branch well.

The source of the picture at the top of this page is:


Another Wyneken Lunch, Resulting in Very Exciting News

As mentioned last month, Katja and Ulla and I are keeping our eyes open for other Wyneken relatives in the general area that we can invite to our semi-regular lunch get-togethers. For January I was able to reach Christoph Wyneken, who lives in Staufen, a village just south of Freiburg. The three of us got together last Friday for lunch at the little Afghan restaurant that I like to go to for lunch when I’m at work. Since we didn’t take a picture of ourselves I’m just using a photograph of what I had as the picture for the top of this page.

I have met with Christoph a few times in the past, once many, many years ago even together with Ruth Wyneken, who belongs to a completely different branch of the family from Christoph’s branch and from my own. I haven’t seen him in well over 18 years, though, despite the fact that we live so close to each other.

We spent an hour and a half eating and getting to know each other. Well into the discussion Christoph mentioned his grandchildren, of whom he is very proud. Back in 2006 I found out somehow that their second daughter had given birth to their first grandson, but I had no idea that the number was now four. And they’re all boys!!! That is additional hope that the name is not going to go extinct in the near future.

But wait, you say! If their mother is Christoph’s daughter, doesn’t that mean their last name is not Wyneken? Fortunately for the Wyneken clan the father of the four boys thought it was important for them to carry on his wife’s last name. Thus his wife retained her maiden name, which is not at all uncommon in Germany any more, and the children bear her name.

All I can say is, “hooray!”

I wonder if we can get other “guest Wynekens” to join us for lunch in the future?

It’s time for an updated Wyneken family tree

The last “official” complete Wyneken family tree — a miniature version is pictured at the top of this page — was created and shared in 1877 / 1878. That was 140 years ago. A lot has happened in the family since then. If you say that a generation is on average 30 years, that means that we today are about 4 2/3 generations farther on.

I think it’s about time to make a new family tree. My Wyneken database provides me with the information I need to make one. I’ve had this on my to-do list for the last two years but I’ve finally gotten to a spot where I think I can do it.

Before I can start actually making a tree there are a number of organizational matters that will have to be addressed:

  • Ensure that private information is not revealed on the internet.
  • Find out who is interested in receiving a copy.
  • Decide what kind of tree, or possibly even several trees?
    • Only last name “Wyneken”.
    • Include descendants of daughters, i.e. other names besides “Wyneken”.
    • Separate trees for individual branches.
  • Perhaps organize helpers.
  • Estimate the cost of a copy of a printed tree.

Warning: Don’t hold your breath

First off, though, I need to warn everybody that this will probably take a while to complete because I have to do everything in my spare time between work and family duties.

Privacy is of utmost importance!!!

I would like to emphasize the importance of making sure that none of the copies of the tree, including any intermediate versions, should ever be posted publicly anywhere on the internet. The tree will include personal data for living persons and that kind of information should not be freely available on the internet. I would like the final product to be only in printed form. PDF versions will be used to create the printed version, and it might be necessary to share some of these PDF files, but I will make every effort to ensure that these versions are not posted. And I would ask anybody who works with me to do the same.

The reason I make such a big deal of this is that there are probably relatives who are reluctant to share their details because they’re afraid that the information will appear in the internet. I want to do everything possible to make people feel safe about sharing their information. Otherwise the tree would remain incomplete.

Who is interested?

The first step in the tree making process is to find out who would be interested in receiving a copy of the final tree or trees, thus:

Anyone who is possibly interested in receiving a copy of the updated tree when it’s done, please let me know. I will gather the names and keep a list. Just drop me a line by e-mail, Facebook, postcard, telephone or carrier pigeon, whatever.

Please also ask all your family members and relatives if they might be interested, especially if they don’t know about my on-line sites. If they’re on Facebook you can point them to the Wynekens World-Wide group. If they don’t do Facebook have them look at the page you’re looking at now. If they’re not particularly internet savvy, they can just get in touch with me at mawyn@gmx.de. And if they prefer old-fashioned communication they can get in touch with me at my address and phone number.

Further communication

I’m trying to figure out a way to organize the communication that will be necessary to organize this project. There are so many options that I think I’m just going to have to start with something and see how it works. If there are problems I will have to make changes as needed.

I’ve decided to set up a Google e-mail list. I think the easiest way to join the list would be to send a message to wynekentree@googlegroups.com saying that they would like to join. I will then add the person to the list and they will receive any further communications.

Alternatively, people with a Google account should be able to join the list by visiting https://groups.google.com/group/wynekentree and signing up. People with a Google account will also be able to view the archived messages at this address.

If you would like to be involved but do not want to be listed in a Google mailing list, just let me know and we’ll try to figure out a way for you to keep in touch.

I’ll be taking this step by step. If anyone has any ideas or something they would like to say about this project, just get in touch with me. I look forward to any kind of input!

Lotta’s Fountain in San Francisco

People who know me well probably know that I’m very partial to San Francisco. Thus I’m always pleased to find Wyneken connections to the “city by the Bay”. One such connection is Lotta’s Fountain, located at the intersection of Market Street where Geary and Kearny Streets connect. Most of the people who walk or drive by it every day are unaware of its history.

Lotta’s Fountain was commissioned by Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924) in 1875. The architecture firm of Wyneken and Townsend was responsible for designing and building it. The Wyneken in this company was Leopold Ernest Wyneken, whom I have mentioned in a previous blog post.

LottaCrabtreeThe name Lotta Crabtree has long since been forgotten, but during her lifetime she was fabulously famous, even known as “The Nations’s Darling”. She began her entertaining career dancing, singing and playing the banjo for gold miners in California and Nevada. She became very wealthy and moved to the East Coast in 1863. She “mastered the suggestive double entendre long before Mae West”.

Lotta has an article in Wikipedia. In 1951 a movie was made based on her life, entitled “Golden Girl”. Another article in the Internet provides more details about her life. This last article relates the important role Lotta’s fountain played in the aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906:

For thousands of Bay Area residents racked with worry and woe in the hours and days after the 5:12:38 a.m. tremblor on April 18, 1906, Lotta’s was a very, very low-tech sort of Internet. People went to the bronzed Beaux Arts column to learn who was dead and who wasn’t, who was hurt and who was still sound of body (if not mind), and who had gone off to camp in Golden Gate Park or distant Palo Alto.

The fountain also has articles of its own in Wikipedia and Atlas Obscura.

I remember my family and me visiting my parents in the SF Bay Area in around 2001/2002 and making a pilgrimage to downtown San Francisco to find the fountain. I got out of the car and walked around it taking pictures while the rest of them drove around the block until I was done.

Photo credits

Picture of the fountain: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Lotta_Crabtree_Fountain_2012-07-29_15-02-47.jpg, By jdlrobson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Picture of Lotta Crabtree: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/LottaCrabtree.jpg,
By The original uploader was Billinmn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Lampak using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, Link

A new relative

Pictured above from left to right: Katja, Matthew and Ulla.

Sorry, this is not a birth announcement. No new baby Wynekens here. …

One advantage of having a website with one’s genealogy information is that every once in a while someone writes you because he or she has discovered a family connection with the help of your site. That is what happened last week.

A woman named Ulla wrote telling me that her family had told her very little about her family’s background so she had just decided to see if she could find anything out with the help of the Internet. And bingo, my website popped up right away.

Side note: It’s not alway easy having a “weird” name like Wyneken. I’m sure I’m not alone in often having to say things like, “It’s spelled with a ‘y’. No ‘c’ in front of the ‘k’, thank you”. Or “You are free to pronounce it that way if you like, but I pronounce it …”. The upside of the situation, though, is we’re easy to find in the Internet.

We easily figured out where she fit in the family tree. I had the names of her father, aunt and uncles in my database. Just the names, no other information. She told me that she lives in nearby Basel, Switzerland and that before that she had even lived in Freiburg for four years. Because of our geographic proximity I suggested that we get together sometime.

It so happened that Katja and I had planned our next semi-regular monthly lunchtime meeting for the next Friday so I suggested to Ulla that she come up and join us. And she did. As luck would have it, the two of them are actually very closely related. Ulla’s grandmother, Emma Wyneken, and Katja’s grandmother, Adolfine Wyneken, were first cousins.

We had a lovely lunch together and talked about this and that. Ulla brought photographs and gave me a sheet of paper with new names and dates for my database.

We are hoping to set up regular get-togethers, and I’m going to see if other Wyneken relatives who live in the area might be interested in joining us.

A Wyneken in a movie

I flew to Philadelphia from Frankfurt a few weeks ago on family business. In order to while the time away on the flight I watched a few complimentary movies that Lufthansa offered. It came as a complete surprise to me when one of them turned out to have a Wyneken angle, even though that was admittedly not a central part of the plot.

The movie was from 2012 and entitled “Die Vermessung der Welt”, English title “Measuring the World”. I found out later when I looked up the movie in the Internet that it was based on a best selling German novel by Daniel Kehlmann.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but if you are considering watching it please beware of nudity, sexual content and painful scenes of tooth extraction. The camera work was absolutely gorgeous.

As much as I enjoyed watching it I must admit that I didn’t really catch what the intended connection was that it was trying to draw between the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the mathematical genius Carl Friedrich Gauss. Later research uncovered that the critics were not impressed with how the movie reflects the intention of the book, so I have placed the book on my to-read list, hoping to gain a better understanding.

The Wyneken connection is that Gauss’ second wife, Minna Waldeck, as I have pointed out in my blog, was the daughter of Charlotte Wyneken and her husband Johann Waldeck. Wikipedia says that Minna was the best friend of Gauss’ first wife, Johanna Osthoff. That is also portrayed in the movie. However the movie portrays this friendship as dating back to the times when Johanna was growing up in the working class background that came with being the daughter of a whittawer (i.e. tanner of white leather). Minna’s father, on the other hand, was a law professor in Göttingen, and her Wyneken grandmother grew up in the household of a government official. Thus I think it more likely that they met and became friends when the young Gauss family moved to Göttingen for Gauss’ professorship there.

The movie hints at relation ship problems between Gauss and his second wife and between him and one of his sons. This is historically accurate. There are other things in the movie that are probably less so and added for the effect, such as their meeting in Potsdam. That’s all right. It’s just a movie after all.

In any event, I found it interesting to see an actual historical Wyneken as a character in a movie. I think that’s a first for me.

The painting at top of the page depicts Alexander von Humboldt, by Joseph Karl Stieler, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10393110

Hitting pay dirt

Every once in a while every family researcher will receive something new that makes his or her heart jump with joy. I just recently had such an experience. Months ago I got in touch with the pastor in Neuenwalde to ask if he could send me a picture of the page in his church records from 1683 that is said to contain the name of Anna Elisabeth Wyneken nee von Werdenhof – see my post “Possible Swedish Ancestors after all”.

It’s been a long, long wait but finally the pastor at the church sent me photographs of the two pages covering the year 1683. And there it was!!!! At the bottom of the left column on the right page (photo of both pages at the bottom of this posting, closeup at the top), the fifth through third lines from the bottom you can read:

Fr. Anna Elisabeth Wienecken, gebohrene von Werdenhoffen, H. AmbtM zu Beederkesa Eheliebste


Mistress Anna Elisabeth Wienecken, née von Werdenhof, dearly beloved wife of the bailiff in Bederkesa

The entry which contains this line is a record of the baptism of Anna Meyer, and Anna Elisabeth Wyneken appears in the list of godparents. Anna Meyer, the godchild, was born on September 23, 1683 and baptized on September 25. Her father, Andreas, was a bailiff (Amtmann) in Neuenwalde, so at least in a sense a colleague of Anna Elisabeth Wyneken’s husband, Peter Christoph Wyneken, in nearby Bederkesa.

The first godmother listed was a certain Miss Anna von der Liedt. I can’t help but wonder whether she might not have been a relative of Peter Christoph’s sister-in-law, Augusta Juliana von Böselager, whose mother was a von der Lieth.

And then there’s also the possibility that the little girl herself, Anna Meyer, was a relative of Peter Christoph’s mother, Catharina Oelgardt nee Meier. Maybe this baptism entry documents the getting together of several relatives to celebrate a new addition to the family. … And then again maybe I’m projecting too much into the names.

In any event, the reason I was so thrilled to get these photographs was not because of Anne Meyer but because of Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhof. This is actual physical proof that she was married to Peter Christoph Wyneken. Together they founded what I call the Bederkesa branch.

And since one of their granddaughters, Auguste Juliane Wyneken, married into the Rüstje branch by wedding her first cousin once removed, Joachim Wolf Wyneken, Anna Elisabeth Wyneken is also an ancestor of today’s members of the Rüstje branch. Thus all blood Wynekens living today, regardless of whether they are from the Bederkesa or the Rüstje branch are descended from this woman, Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhof, who shows up in these church records from almost 350 years ago.

The baptism and birth recorded here happen to have taken place at about the time that Peter Christoph died. My information says that he died in about 1683 or 1684. But he was apparently still alive at the time this entry was written because otherwise he would most likely have been listed as deceased.

One of the oldest Wyneken family sources, a list of the owners of the manor at Rüstje written by Anna Elisabeth’s great-great-great granddaughter, Auguste Juliane Martin (1800-1886), gives the name of Peter Christoph’s wife as “Wöweken“, which I believe is a Germanized form of the French word “veuve“, meaning widow. Since Anna Elisabeth died in 1724, roughly 40 years after her husband, maybe she never remarried and the family fondly referred to her as “the little widow”, and the name was passed on through the generations so that her descendants still referred to her that way over a 100 years after her death when Auguste Juliane wrote down her little family tree.

Another explanation for or, perhaps better, facet of the nickname “Wöweken” might have to do with the possibility that, as mentioned in my post “Possible Swedish Ancestors after all”, Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhoff was the daughter of Lorenz von Werdenhof. In that case, Peter Christoph Wyneken was her second husband, because Lorenz’ daughter, Anna Elisabeth, is documented elsewhere as being the wife of Otto Christer von Spandekow. If that is true, Otto must have died at a relatively early age, leaving Anna Elisabeth a widow for the first time before she married Peter Christoph (before 1675). Then, after she bears Peter at least three children, she becomes a widow a second time.

We will most likely never know for sure the real background of the strange name “Wöweken” or whether she was truly Lorenz von Werdenhof’s daughter or not. But thanks to these photographs, we can now be certain that Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhof was Peter Christoph’s dearly beloved wife.

Complete transcription of the baptism entry.

den 25. Septembris s. X getauft welche den 23. d. X 3/4 auf 4 Uhr frühe gebohren. Filia Anna Pater, H. Andreas Meyer, AmbtM. allhier, Mater, Catharina Elisabeth, gebohrene Krügerin, Patrizi (?), Jungfer Anna von der Liedt, Klosterjungfrau allhier, Fr. Anna Elisabeth Wienecken, gebohrene von Werdenhoffen, H. AmbtM zu Beederkesa Eheliebste, H. Buko (?) Eibsten (?), Voigt zu Ding (?), im Lande Wursten

And a translation:

baptised the 25th of September, born on the 23rd at 3/4 of 4 o’clock: a daughter Anna Father, Master Andreas Meyer, local bailiff, Mother, Catharina Elisabeth, maiden name Krüger, Godparents, Miss Anna von der Liedt, from the local convent, Mistress Anna Elisabeth Wienecken, née von Werdenhof, dearly beloved wife of the bailiff in Bederkesa, Master Buko (?) Eibsten (?), reeve in Ding (?), in the region of Wursten

Neuenwalde Kirchenbuch 1683  both pages

From parish register Neuenwalde. Photograph kindly provided by Pastor Joachim Köhler.

Theodore Schwan

I would like to introduce someone who saw a lot of involvement in quite a number of significant American military happenings in the second half of the 19th century. He was not a Wyneken descendant, but there is a very close Wyneken connection.

Theodore Schwan was born in Germany in 1841, emigrated to the US in 1857 shortly before he turned 16. He enrolled in the US army as a private, less than two weeks after he arrived in the country. After a very distinguished career in the army, he retired in 1901 and was possibly living in Washington, D.C. when he died in 1926.

The Wyneken connection

Theodore Schwan himself was not a Wyneken descendant, but his half brother was: Heinrich Schwan (1819-1905), older than Theodore by 22 years. Their father was Pastor Georg Schwan (1788-1869). Georg’s first wife was Charlotte Wyneken (1799-1834), and Heinrich was their first child. When Charlotte died, Georg remarried. His second wife, Dorette Polemann (1806-1848), was Theodore Schwan’s mother.

Charlotte is thus the Wyneken connection in this story. She also happens to be very closely related to the two American branches of the Wyneken family, as she was the older sister of Carl and FCD Wyneken, from whom most of the American Wynekens descend.

Heinrich Schwan, like his Uncle Fritz (FCD) before him, became president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. FCD was the second president, being the successor of CFW Walther who played a huge role in founding the Synod. FCD was followed in office again by CFW Walther, who was thus the first and third president. Heinrich Schwan succeeded CFW Walther, becoming at one and the same time the third and fourth president of the Synod, depending on whether you count terms in office or individual people.

By the way, Heinrich Schwan is credited with being the first pastor to set up a Christmas tree in an American church building.

Theodore Schwan’s military career

theodore-schwan-2As mentioned earlier, Theodore enlisted in the army as a private in 1857 very shortly after he entered the United States, and served on the Union side in the Civil War, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant in 1864. He received the Medal of Honor for rescuing the life of a wounded officer at the battle of Peebles Farm, Virginia in 1864.

Through the years he continued to be promoted and rise in rank. He served in the Indian wars in Texas and later in the Dakota Territories during the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. It seems that he took part in a mission that went to the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn almost a year after General Custer was defeated there. The goal of the mission was to recover the bodies of the fallen American soldiers.

He was attached to the US Embassy in Berlin in 1892-93.

At the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898 he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and colonel in the Regular Army. (He was one of the only foreign born generals in this war.) He saw action in Puerto Rico and his troops were allegedly involved in the first game of baseball played in Puerto Rico.

After the fighting was over in Puerto Rico, Schwan was transferred to the Philippines where he became chief-of-staff of the Eighth Army Corps. The Philippines had just declared their independence from Spain in 1898. The treaty ending the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the US but the Filipinos wanted to be completely independent so they immediately rose up against their new colonial masters. The Americans succeeded in crushing the rebellion. Schwan played an important role in the military action to pacify Cavite, the region just south of Manila, in 1899 and 1900.

He retired from the army in 1901 and was made a Major General of Regulars. He died in 1926 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Final thoughts

I find it intriguing that this one person was somehow involved in so many significant events that are part of the American historical consciousness:

  • immigration from the Old Country
  • Civil War
  • fighting Indians in the Old West — even a remote connection to Custer’s famous last stand
  • Spanish-American war in Puerto Rico — shades of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
  • quashing nascent Philippine independence — particularly close to my own personal history since I was born within 30 miles of where his campaigns were

Much of the above information can be found at the following sites:

Riding the coattails of fame

There aren’t many Wynekens you can really call “famous”.

Actually, to tell the complete truth — there aren’t any.

Some might be kind of well known in certain circles, or at a certain time and place in history. For example there are:

  • FCD Wyneken (1810-1876), who has a fair amount of renown amongst Missouri Synod Lutherans
  • Alexander Wyneken (1848-1939), a journalist and newspaper publisher in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad)
  • Gustav Wyneken (1875-1964), an influential educator in his time, whose name might still be known amongst some German educators
The German Wikipedia lists these three as well as a few others.

Otherwise we Wynekens tend to approach fame by hanging on to the coattails of someone else. For example:

  • The mother-in-law of the famous mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauß, was a Wyneken.
  • My Wyneken grandfather’s Wyneken grandfather married the first cousin twice removed of the famous German poet Friedrich Schiller, who, among other things, wrote the poem “Ode to Joy” that is sung in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (That’s a very, very long coattail to Schiller. And an even longer one to Beethoven!!)

The reason I mention all this is that I just recently ran into another Wyneken with a coattail relationship to fame. The “famous” person in question is Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), a German poet and journalist (pictured above). I must admit that I had never heard of him before, but I am certainly familiar with one of his poems because it is a popular children’s song in Germany, “Der Mond ist aufgegangen” (“The moon has risen”). You can find the German lyrics and an English translation in the Internet.

The Wyneken in question was Mathilde Wyneken (1843-1886), who married Adolph Ernst Nicolaus Claudius (1834-1893), one of Matthias Claudius’ grandsons.

As this is, I admit, not particularly impressive, let me just paraphrase the old adage: Some are born to fame, some have fame thrust upon them, and some merely ride the coattails of the famous.

Are the Wynekens dying out?

rip_graveI must admit that every once in a while I get to thinking that it won’t be much longer and the Wyneken name will have died out. I go through in my mind the list of young Wyneken males that can conceivably father sons to pass on the family name, and I see a problem coming.

Granted, the fact that the last name is traditionally passed on in the male line reflects a strongly patriarchal system. I don’t really want to get into a discussion about whether this is good or bad, or what can be done to change it. That is, however, currently the way last names are generally passed on, although I am aware of at least a few exceptions. I know of at least one Wyneken mother who has passed on her last name to her child. I also think I know of at least one Wyneken father whose child’s last name is the mother’s. And I suspect there are more examples of the latter case, too.

But back to the question at hand. Is the family name “Wyneken” soon going to disappear?  I have heard from a few sources that people have thought so in the past.

There’s an elderly gentleman living in the north of Germany right now named Wyneken Fimmen. His mother had some sisters but only one surviving brother. This brother only had one child, a daughter. I have been told that the reason they gave Wyneken his first name was that they were convinced that the family name would soon disappear. Wyneken Fimmen also passed on his first name to his son. This younger Wyneken and his wife named their son Beat Wyneken, but Beat’s last name is his mother’s.

I have also heard that another branch of the family at the beginning of the 20th century believed that the name was on the way out so they used “Wyneken” as one of their son’s names: Adelhard Karl Hans Wyneken Kobus (1909-?). It turned out that he preferred the last of his first names so he went by “Wyneken Kobus”. His son was named “Fritz Wyneken Gerhard” (1939-?), but he chose to go by “Gerhard”.

In a corner of the family very close to Wyneken Kobus we also find Carl Wyneken Roscher (1852-1924). I don’t know the background of why his parents chose to give him that name, as that was really quite a long while ago.

A lot more recently and across the Atlantic in the US we find Henry Wyneken Kossmann (1906-1973) and his son Kenneth Wyneken Kossmann (1940-?). The Kossmanns actually knew quite a number of Wyneken relatives so I suspect they actually weren’t all that worried about the name dying out.

Then there’s Thomas Wyneken Meyer (1947-1988). He was part of the Michigan branch of the Wyneken family, represented by six sisters and their descendants. At least a few of these sisters were very interested in the family history so I’m sure that they were aware that there were still plenty of Wynekens around. Thus my guess is that this name was probably chosen to honor the name rather than to preserve it.

And then finally we have Chloe Wyneken Pearce (2001-) whose middle name apparenlty honors her great grandmother, Pauline Neeb nee Wyneken. Chloe is from the branch of the Wyneken family that, for example, the Edmund and Hugo Wyneken extended families belong to.

Again, back to the question at hand: Are we soon going to run out of Wynekens? Some people in the past have thought so, others apparently were so fond of the name that they used it as a first or middle name, although we don’t know if they were afraid it was disappearing. I decided to look into my database to see what the situation looks like.

I believe my database is basically complete when it comes to Wyneken family members alive today. The database tells me that there are 68 men in existence today with the last name “Wyneken”.

My first reaction was that that’s not very many, but then, using the database, I tried to estimate how many male Wynekens were living at various other times. That was not as easy to determine as the modern day number because I don’t have dates of birth and/or death for everybody in the database, but here are the numbers I came up with:

Year Number of male Wynekens
1950 50
1940 54
1930 56
1920 53
1910 53
1900 49
1850 36
1800 11

Thus, it looks like the number of male Wynekens has remained relatively constant since the end of the 19th century.

Of course, the likelihood of a man becoming a father diminishes with age so not all of these men “count” when it comes to keeping the name alive. The following table shows the results of a search in the database for today’s potential fathers of future Wynekens. The first column is the age in years and the second column shows how many male Wynekens are that age or younger:

Age “X” Number Wynekens “X” years old or younger
40 19
30 17
20 10
10 2

I don’t think that looks really too bad, but since I’m not an expert in population growth I still can’t say for sure.

So there you have it. A lot of words, some numbers, and in the end I still can’t really tell you whether the name is in danger of extinction or not. I’ve done my part — I’ve got a son and two daughters. Whether they choose to keep the name going is up to them.

A pleasant visit from a California relative

On the second Sunday in June I went down to the train station here in Freiburg to meet up with two people. The people I was meeting were Mary Ann Wood née Schaller and her husband Don from California. They were finishing off the German part of their mixed business and pleasure trip before they headed off to their final stop in Paris. We had a little trouble finding each other at the station but in the end the connection worked.

They were staying at the hotel right next to the train station so I accompanied them there. I asked them if they were interested in me giving them a bit of a foot tour of the sites in Freiburg and they said, yes, they’d love to. I showed them what I thought were the highlights of the town. We talked about this and that while we walked: the Wyneken relatives we knew, our work, music, architecture. It was all very easy going, natural and fun.

We walked around town together for maybe two hours or more. Then we hopped on the street car to my home so they could meet the rest of my family. There we continued our chat, and Don and my wife, Cindy, were tickled to discover that they had something in common professionally. Much too soon after we had finished our simple dinner our visit had to come to an end because it was time for our youngest daughter to go to bed. So I accompanied them back to the street car stop so they could go back to their hotel.

It was a great pleasure for me to talk to a Wyneken relative who knew and had met personally numerous relatives that I only know by name from my research. But it turned out that she also knows people from my direct family. When she talked about meeting the family of a Wyneken missionary to India when she was a child, I informed her that that was my grandfather and his family. She remembered that most of the boys — including my father — were a few years older than she was. At that early age those few years make a huge difference so they didn’t really have much to do with each other, but she does remember fondly the youngest child, my aunt.

Dot Bonavito 1943

Dot Bonavito in 1943

Another person we talked about in depth was her cousin, Dot Bonavito, with whom I had corresponded may years ago. Dot led a highly interesting life, having entered the foreign service shortly after World War II. I really know only a very few details of everything she experienced, which is why I highly regret never having had the opportunity to meet her in person. Mary Ann, on the other hand, knew her cousin very well and often visited her at her home in Paris.

Dot has an interesting pedigree. Dot’s father, Mary Ann’s uncle, was a son of FCD Wyneken’s youngest daughter, Pauline, and Dot’s mother was a granddaughter of FCD Wyneken’s oldest daughter, Louise Buehler in San Francisco. Thus, Dot is at the same time FCD’s granddaughter and his great granddaughter.

Through Dot’s relationship to the California Wyneken relatives descended from Louise Buehler, Mary Ann had opportunity to meet and know the Koenigs, the Tietjens and the Hargens. Living in California herself, Mary Ann throughout the years has met many of the California Wynekens descended from the twin brothers, Martin (including, as mentioned above, my grandfather and my father) and Henry. She also knew the Brohms, who were closely related to Martin’s wife.

As I mentioned above, this is a large group of Wyneken relatives that I either know personally or am closely related to, or with whom I am very familiar through my research. And here I was talking to single person who has met all of these people personally. My genealogist heart couldn’t help but think that this get-together with Mary Ann was very significant.

A Wyneken and a king

Carl Johann Conrad Wyneken, 1763-1825 (not pictured at the top of this page) was one of the many Lutheran pastors that have come from the Wyneken family.

In the course of his career as a pastor, Carl Johann Conrad served in at least six different churches in various towns or cities in what was to become the Kingdom of Hanover. Towards the end of his career he was a member of the consistory, the administrative body in the Lutheran church hierarchy. In 1819 he started what was to be his final post as second pastor at the Schlosskirche (“Castle Church”) in Hanover, the capitol city of the kingdom.

The Schlosskirche was the church for the court in Hanover. Hanover was the capitol of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, which later became the Kingdom of Hanover. The ruling dynasty in Hanover, no matter what the realm was called, was the House of Hanover.

By the time Carl Wyneken served in the Schlosskirche in Hanover, the reigning monarch was George III, from the House of Hanover (pictured at the top of this page). George III reigned from 1760 to 1820, first as prince elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg, after 1814 as king of the Kingdom of Hanover.

At first sight this might seem an interesting — or maybe not-so-interesting — bit of historical trivia. However, in 1714 the course of history had made the House of Hanover also the monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland. Thus this George III of Hanover was (at the same time) none other than King George III of Great Britain that American high school history classes know as the dreadful tyrant whose yoke the founding fathers wanted to cast off.

Much can be said about George III above and beyond his role as monarch during the American Revolution, but we will not touch on that in this post. What concerns us here is that George III died in 1820, a year after Carl Johann Conrad Wyneken assumed his post as court chaplain in Hanover. Even if George III had ever visited Hanover, which he hadn’t, he certainly would not have been able to do that in the last years of his life as he was very ill. Thus Carl Wyneken never had anything to do with him personally. Nevertheless it became Carl’s job, perhaps as the junior partner in his new church, to perform the official eulogy in the memorial service for his sovereign. This sermon appeared in printed form with the title:

Gedächtniß-Predigt bei dem am 29sten Januar 1820 erfolgten tödtlichen Hintritte Sr. Mai. Königs von Großbrit. und Hannover u. Georg des Dritten: in der Schloßkirche zu Hannover am Sonntage Quinquagesimä

In English that’s:

Memorial sermon on the occasion of His Majesty the King of Great Britain and Hanover George the Third’s mortal departure on the 29th of January 1820: In the Schlosskirche in Hanover on Quinquagesima Sunday

This publication is listed in online library catalogs. I must admit that I haven’t made the effort to see if I can get a copy of the 24 page long publication by interlibrary loan. Still, I find it noteworthy that it was a Wyneken who bid farewell to George III from the pulpit in George’s “home” church back in Germany.

The painting at the top of this page is kindly provided under a Creative Commons License by the National Portrait Gallery in London: King George IIIstudio of Sir William Beechey, oil on canvas, circa 1800 (1799-1800) – NPG 6250

Family connections

Several of Carl Johann Conrad’s descendants are noteworthy for various reasons, but for this post I will only mention his grandson, Alexander Wyneken, who was an influential newspaper publisher in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Several of Alexander’s descendants are living in Germany to this day.

Carl was also closely related – an uncle to be precise – to the Wyneken brothers, two of whom founded the branches of the Wyneken family found today in the US: Carl, the oldest, and the youngest brother FCD. The middle brother, Gustav’s, descendants are also still alive and well in Germany. Their father, Heinrich Christoph, like Carl Johann Conrad, was a pastor in the kingdom of Hanover, and because they didn’t live all that far away from each other, I can imagine that Carl, Gustav, and Fritz knew their Uncle Carl personally. FCD was the youngest of the three brothers and he was 15 when his uncle died; Carl, the oldest, was already 22.

And finally, Carl was a first cousin of Hinrich Christoph Carl Wyneken, the founder of the branch of the family most of the other Wynekens descend from.

A Wyneken “hair picture”

The other day I received an interesting picture from our distant relative, Mary Ann Wood née Schaller. She described it to me as follows:

This was a popular way of showing off your family in Victorian times. The cross in the middle is FCD Wyneken and the bible is his wife Sophie Wyneken née Buuck. The wreath is made from the hair of the thirteen children. It is oval in a rectangular frame. It is a family treasure. It needs restoration but I am not sure where to find that type of expert.

I looked in the Internet for “hair picture” and found this explanation: http://www.victoriangothic.org/the-lost-art-of-sentimental-hairwork/

Diary from the end of World War II

NOTE: I’m not sure what happened here. I thought I published the following posting in my old blog. It was probably on May 25, 2015. However, it doesn’t look like it made it to the new – WordPress – blog. Did I maybe overlook it when I copied everything over? In any event, here it is again. Better late than never.

In September of 2014 I posted a picture of Karl Wyneken in the Facebook group “World Wide WyneKarl-Wyneken.jpgkens” as a prisoner of war after World War I. Karl Wyneken was a young German soldier who spent some years in a French prisoner of war camp. At the time I posted the picture, I mentioned that Karl’s grandson, David, an Englishman, was having Karl’s World War I and World War II diaries translated into English.

David recently sent me the first translated diary, covering the time between April 4, 1945 and June 28, 1950. At the start of the diary, Karl is awaiting the arrival of allied troops in Göttingen, the university town Karl was living in. Karl had lost his job as a teacher because of his anti Nazi sentiments. He was obviously glad that the Nazi regime seemed to be coming to an end, but at the same time he couldn’t imagine that life would be pleasant under the heel of the invading powers.

The Americans, with their impressive tanks, were the first to arrive. Karl and his family were forced to move out of their flat because the liberators needed someplace to house themselves. Karl expected the worst … But read for yourself how things turned out.

I found it very interesting to read Karl’s critical opinions of the Nazi government but also of the Allies. Most of his pessimistic expectations did not come to pass, but that doesn’t mean that he and his family, along with the rest of his beloved German Fatherland, didn’t have rough times to go through. Now, 70 years later, we know how things turned out. But at that time, he had no idea.

As the diary progresses, he writes less and less frequently. His last entry is from 1950 at the outbreak of the Korean War. He saw this as the beginning of the World War III that he had prophesied a number of times earlier in the diary.

Possible Swedish ancestors after all

There is a long held and often cherished belief that the Wynekens originally came from Sweden. My cousin Nick, for example, was very disappointed when he found out from me many years ago that we probably are not descended from vikings. He has always been extremely proud of that, and from what I gather is still somewhat obsessed by the vikings despite my claim that they have nothing to do with us.

I have some tentatively good news for Nick, though. My database shows that Peter Christoph Wyneken (lived from 1644 to 1683/1684), my 7G grandfather (that’s seven “greats” in front of “grandfather”), was married to Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhoff. Anna is the daughter of Lorenz von Werdenhoff, one of three brothers who were born in Bremen, Germany but were recruited by the Swedish crown to gain possession of and administer three estates in Ingermanland, English Ingria. The only stipulation they was that they were to take along enough German workers and peasants to take care of the property and make it profitable.

Werdenhoff crest

The Werdenhoff crest

The three brothers were knighted by the Swedish crown in 1652 and in 1675 their names were added to the official rolls of the Swedish nobility in the riddarhus in Stockholm.

Now, when I first heard this story I assumed that Ingria was part of Sweden. When I looked it up, was surprised to discover that even though it once belonged to the Swedish crown, it is not even located on the Scandinavian peninsula. As a matter of fact, it is located in an area that is now part of Russia, more familiar to us as the region around St. Petersburg.

Now, the von Werdenhoffs were German, so where does actual Swedish blood enter our veins? The answer is that Lorenz von Werdenhoff’s wife was Catharina Åkerfelt, daughter of a true Swedish family with an actual Swedish name. The above mentioned rolls of the Swedish nobility list a tidy bit of her family starting around 1600 and including descendants up through the 1800s.

So, if Peter Christoph Wyneken’s wife truly was Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhoff, she introduced Scandinavian blood into the Wyneken family by way of her mother. My cousin Nick could realistically go back to believing that some of Anna’s ancestors took turns rowing oars in viking ships. And as Peter and Anna are ancestors of all currently living Wynekens, this could be said for all of us.

Unfortunately … It is not completely certain that the Anna who was married to Peter Christoph really was Anna Elisabeth von Werdenhoff. Maybe it was a completely different Anna. I still need to look closer at my sources for this information to see how plausible the connection is.

Stay tuned …

Big changes in the Wyneken information sites

I have closed down my previous blog at http://wyneken-genealogy.blogspot.de/ and the site at http://top10.physik.uni-freiburg.de/~mpw/Wynekens/ that used to contain my Wyneken Genealogy information.

The blog and the informational site have been replaced by


I was unable to move the actual family database areas to the new site so they are still physically located on top10. There are, of course, links to these databases on the new site.

I decided to make this move in order to consolidate everything in one place and also to update the appearance of the site to a more modern look.

I hope you enjoy the new website. It is possible to leave comments on almost all of the new pages. Just look for the “Leave a reply” links. I’d love to hear from you!

The role of one Wyneken at the outbreak of World War I

In the Facebook group “Wynekens World-Wide” I recently posted a link to the Google English translation version of the Russian Wikipedia article for “Wyneken”.

Background information: There was a George von Wyneken who emigrated to St. Petersburg in the 19th century to join his Stieglitz relative in the Russian bank business. George and his three children are the topic of the Wikipedia article.

I showed the Google translation of the article to my Russian colleague at work and asked him to correct the inaccuracies in the translation, which he did. He was intrigued by the fact that I had relatives, regardless of how distant, in Russia and he kept on following links to see what he could find.

He called me over to look at the article about George’s son, Alexander. He pointed out the photograph of a telegram shown on the page and translated it for me.  I’m very glad he did because I found it a very interesting footnote in Wyneken history.

It turns out that Alexander was some sort of attaché or envoy in Vienna, there as a representative of the government of the Russian czar. The transcript of the telegram says that the original was encrypted and that this was the decrypted version. In this telegram Alexander reports back to St. Petersburg that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo.

Thus, it seems that it was a Wyneken who informed the Russian court of the assassination that triggered the outbreak of World War I.

Dispatch from Viena. Sender: colonel barron AGVineken, Russian military agent in Austro-Hungary.  June 28, 1914. Text: “This morning in Sarajevo, the heir to the throne and his wife were slain by shots from a revolver. The assassins speak Serbian. No: 205. Vineken”

19th Century Wyneken Family Tree

Link to the scanned tree

Around 1997 or 1998 I visited Dick Wyneken in Ripon, California during one of my trips to the US to visit my parents. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that he had a long roll containing an extensive family tree in German. His grandfather, Herman Wyneken, had received it from his German relative, Luise Wyneken. Luise’s father, Ernst Friedrich Wyneken, and Herman were first cousins so the relationship was actually very close.

Dick took me home with him so he could show me this family tree. It was on old, yellowed paper and stored in a cardboard cylinder for protection. The cylinder still held the address label showing Luise’s address as Friedlandweg 7 in Göttingen and Herman’s address as North Orange Street 42F in Orange, California. Unfortunately there is no date on the label.

At the end of our visit Dick surprised me by offering to give me the cylinder and its contents. His reasoning was that he was getting old and didn’t know anybody who would really appreciate receiving the tree. As I was interested in the family history, I could make good use of the tree and it just made sense to him that I should have it. Needless to say I was thrilled by Dick’s most generous offer, which after a bit of hesitation I gladly accepted.

Now, about 15 years later, I figured it is a good idea to scan the whole roll electronically in order to be able to share this wonderful resource with relatives on the Internet and also to have a copy of it in case it ever gets damaged or destroyed. The paper the tree is written on is about 38 cm / 15 inches high. It is very brittle and I hesitate to unroll it too often to consult details because I’m afraid of damaging it. For that reason I have not measured the length of the roll but, based on the dimensions of the scanned copy and my knowledge of the height of the paper, I estimate that the complete roll is about 386 cm / 152 inches long. That is about 12 feet and 8 inches. That’s a lot of Wynekens!

I know that Luise’s nephew, Wyneken Fimmen, has a copy of this tree. I also believe that Helen Wyneken in Michigan possesses one or at least had access to one because she used it to make an English version of the tree. I believe she did that work in 1974. From Norma Wacker, one of my earliest sources of Wyneken information, I received a negative photocopy of the same tree in which the writing is in white and the paper in black. Perhaps Norma’s family still owns the original. I wouldn’t be surprised if there other copies of the tree still in existence.

Still, this tree is a very valuable and historical resource for the Wyneken family history and I can only urge interested readers of this blog to download copies of the scanned versions posted here to store electronically on their computers. The more copies that exist, the greater the chance that researchers in the future will have access to one.

Notes about the download page:

  • The scans are very large, much larger than a computer screen. I’ve tried to set it up so that you can have a good look at the individual pictures but it might not be obvious how the page is to be worked. There is a “Help” link at the bottom of the page that I hope will be of some assistance. The download icon is towards the top of each page that depicts a single picture, to the right of the description text. If you have problems dealing with the pages, get back to me and I’ll try to help.
  • While putting the final touches on this posting I noticed that some errors sneaked into the pictures of the tree. I had to compile the complete tree out of a large number of different photographs I took and then sewed it together using a program. There are a few spots where I apparently didn’t get it quite right and you can see that there are lines that are supposed to be continuos that show up in the photographs as interrupted lines. I find that very annoying and I hope I will get a chance to correct it sometime, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to get around to it. … Maybe never.

Luise Wyneken

From the address label we know a bit about how my copy of the tree made it’s way across the Atlantic, namely from Luise Wyneken. As a matter of fact, I am quite sure that all of the American copies I mentioned were sent over by Luise.

Luise Wyneken

Luise was a remarkable person. She was a home economics teacher and the head of a home economics school. It might be fair to say that she was an early-day feminist. As a point in case, at one point she decided she wanted to see what life was like in the US so she booked passage on a steamer and crossed the ocean by herself. She worked as a maid and cook in households on the east coast from 1923 to 1925. Towards the end of her stay she decided she wanted to see the rest of the country, too, so she set off to hitchhike — unaccompanied — across the continent, on the way visiting relatives she knew about. On this trip she met cousins in Chicago, Fort Wayne, Texas, southern California and San Francisco. She kept a diary of her time in the US, including the hitchhiking trip, which is quite an interesting read.

It seems logical that she told the relatives she visited about the tree her father had drawn up, extra copies of which the family probably still had back at home in Germany, so when she got back she mailed copies over to her American relatives. One of these relatives was Herman Wyneken in Orange County, California, by way of whom I eventually received “my” copy.

Author and date of the family tree


Ernst Friedrich Wyneken

According to information from the present day descendants of Luise’s father, Ernst Friedrich Wyneken, the tree is the product of his research.

This particular copy of the tree also appears to have been kept in his family’s possession at first because you can see that entries for later additions to the family and to his brother’s family have been added. These can be found on the left side of the fourth of my four scans. Some of the additions seem to be in a different hand, some of them are not as neat as the original entries.

The entries for Ernst Friedrich’s first two children, Gustav Adolph (born 1875) and Elisabeth (born 1876) look like they are part of the original version. His later children, Luise (1878), Karl, Ernst and Hilda, were obviously added later.  It is also interesting to note that someone continued to add names from even later generations of Ernst Friedrich’s descendants. The names Ruth, Wyneken, Bärbel, Ernst Ihno and Renate, for example, denote people whom I have met personally and who are mostly still alive today.

The first four children in the family of Ernst’s brother, Carl — the one born through 1877 — are written very neatly whereas the later ones were written in less carefully.

At the very right edge of this scan you can see where Herman and his family added their own names, as well, after the tree had been sent to California.

The dates in the “original” entries mentioned in the previous two paragraphs and the dates for the other persons on the bottom edge of the tree seem to indicate that the tree was drawn up in about 1877.

I possess two copies of a letter written by Ernst Friedrich in December of 1877 in which he requests current information about the families of the people he wrote. This letter was accompanied by a version of the family tree. It is unclear whether this was an earlier version or whether the letter is referring to copies of the same version I now have in my possession. Based on these hints, however, it seems safe to conjecture that the original entries on all of the trees in existence reflect the information Ernst Friedrich had compiled by approximately 1877.

Another interesting question is how all of these trees were produced. Did someone sit down and write each and every one of them separately by hand? Or was there some sort of technology available at the time to make duplicates? I did a bit of research and discovered that the hectograph technology had been invented in 1869. Perhaps Ernst Friedrich made use of this new high tech means of reproducing his trees? I don’t know enough about hectographs, though, to be able to judge whether the tree I have might have been duplicated that way. If so, he was using the cutting edge of technology of his time to further Wyneken family research, just as I use the Internet, today’s cutting edge.